Sasaki Takatsuna (佐々木高綱)

Takatsuna SASAKI was a busho (Japanese military commander) from the end of Heian period to the early Kamakura period.

He was born as the fourth son of Hideyoshi SASAKI, who was toryo (head of the clan) of the Sasaki clan, based on Sasaki no sho Manor in Omi Province, and lived in Heian-kyo (the ancient capital of Japan in current Kyoto). His activities were depicted in "Heike Monogatari" (The Tale of the Heike [the Taira family]) and "Genpei Seisui ki" (Rise and Fall of the Minamoto and the Taira clans), and he was known for the battle to get spearhead against Kagesue KAJIWARA on the Battle of Ujigawa (the Uji-gawa River). He was appeared in "Kamakura Sandaiki" (Three Generations of the Kamakura Shogunate) of Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) and very popular samurai.

Biography

When MINAMOTO no Yoritomo rose in arms to defeat the Taira clan in Izu Province in 1180, he joined Yoritomo with his brothers Sadatsuna SASAKI, Tsunetaka SASAKI, and Moritsuna SASAKI and defeated Kanetaka YAMAKI. He saved Yoritomo from imminent danger by fighting bravely in Sugiyama on the Battle of Ishibashiyama. When he hunted down and killed MINAMOTO no Yoshinaka in February 1184, he followed the armed camp of MINAMOTO no Yoshitsune and battled for spearhead against Kagesue KAJIWARA on the Battle of Ujigawa by riding the fine horse named 'Ikezuki' that was given by Yoritomo. He was lagged behind at first, but he spearheaded while Kagesue tried to tighten the girth since he recommended Kagesue to do so as it was loosened. The house of Takatsuna SASAKI was said to be near Hachiman-gu Shrine in present-day Toriyama Town, Kohoku Ward, Yokohama City, and his favorite horse 'Ikezuki' is still enshrined near there as Bato Kannon (horse-headed Kannon).

He was appointed to the provincial constable of Nagato Province and Bizen Province in 1186. He also received Onshochi (a land given for reward) such as the Provinces of Aki, Suo, Inaba, Hoki, Izumo, and Hyuga. At the reconstruction of Todai-ji Temple, he was rewarded by Yoritomo for administrating the supply of lumber. He entered the priesthood in Daihi Kongoin Temple on Mt. Koya by ceding the position of the family head to his child Shigetsuna and called himself Saikyu in 1195. There are many temples and treasures originated in Takatsuna in various places since he was said to visit various districts.

In November, 1203, when civil disorder of armed priests at Enryaku-ji Temple happened, he came down from Mt. Koya to talk about the tactics to his older brothers Tsunetaka and Moritsuna who were about to suppress the disorder, and to predict his heir Shigetsuna's death. Then, he died in Matsumoto City, Shinano Province in December, 1214.

Tradition

Senshuin Shogyo-ji Temple on Mt. Taiho, a temple of Jodo Shinshu sect (the True Pure Land Sect of Buddhism) currently located in Shimadachi, Matsumoto City, is said to be built by Takatsuna who became a holly priest named Ryochi Shonin, and there is the grave of Takatsuna nearby. Also, local people call this area Takatsunahara (literally, field of Takatsuna) after Takatsuna's name, and there are a school named Takatsuna Junior High School. In addition, Army General Maresuke NOGI, the military man in Meiji period, was considered as Takatsuna's descendant.